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HOME  > Past issues  > 2016 September 14 - 20  > New national park in Okinawa highlights incompatibility of US military with wildlife conservation
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2016 September 14 - 20 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

New national park in Okinawa highlights incompatibility of US military with wildlife conservation

September 16, 2016
Around 17,000 hectares of an area in the northern part of Okinawa’s mainland was designated as the Yanbaru National Park on September 15. Meanwhile, there still remains the possibility that an adjoining U.S. military facility could be a threat to the natural environment of the park.

The sub-tropical forest in northern Okinawa is called “Yanbaru”. Various animals and plants, including endemic and/or rare species, are found in the area which contains mangrove forests.

The Yanbaru National Park, the 33rd national park in Japan, has a land area of 13,622 ha and a sea area of 3,670 ha, totaling 17,292 ha. The U.S. Northern Training Area is next to but not part of the park.

In the military training area, construction work for new helipads is going on which is causing serious damage to the forest environment. The helipad construction is one of the preconditions for the partial return of the training site. In addition, many residents are anxious that once the helipads are completed, it will lead to more flights of the vertical take-off landing aircraft Osprey causing severe damage to the natural environment.

The Abe government is seeking to have the “Amami-Ryukyu Area”, which includes the Yanbaru National Park, listed in the UNESCO Natural Heritage site list. However, experts and Okinawans argue that the complete return of the U.S. training site is essential for a successful listing of the area.

Okinawa Governor Onaga Takeshi on September 15 at a press conference in the prefectural office building welcomed the designation of the Yanbaru National Park by saying that it will contribute to wildlife conservation and the promotion of the local economy.

Asked by the press about the current situation where Ospreys are flying over the newly-designated national park, the governor said that in order to help designate “Amami-Ryukyu Area” as a Natural Heritage site, it is essential for the negative environmental impact of Ospreys to be “minimized”.

Past related articles:
> USMC Jungle Warfare Training Center has nothing to do with Japan’s defense: JCP Okinawa local assembly person [September 8, 2016]
> Gov’t seeks to register Okinawa forest utilized as US military training field as world heritage site [April 15, 2016]
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